Veterinary Medicine

Yoshihiro Sakoda

Protecting Animals and Humans from Infections

Yoshihiro Sakoda , Professor

Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine (School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Veterinary Medicine)

High school : Saitama Prefectural Urawa High School

Academic background : School of Veterinary Medicine, Hokkaido University

Research areas
Research keywords
microorganisms, viruses

What is your goal?

Infections are diseases in which animals and humans are infected by viruses, bacteria, eumycetes (fungi), or parasites. Among these, viruses are exceedingly small microorganisms which are impossible to observe with the naked eye or optical microscopes (Figure 1). Because viruses are invisible, animals and humans are unconsciously infected by them, resulting in diseases.

Specifically, once viruses that do not normally exist in Japan are brought in from overseas, such as highly pathogenic avian flu viruses and foot-and-mouth disease viruses, and transmitted to chickens, cows, or pigs, great damage is caused to livestock farmers and humans (Figure 2).

Thus, in order to protect animals and humans from viruses, we are conducting research as veterinarians.


What kind of equipment do you use and what kind of experiments do you conduct?

It is impossible to observe viruses with the naked eye. Therefore, we observe the world of nanometers with a special microscope; i.e., an electron microscope. Electron microscopes create images of virus shapes by irradiating electron beams onto the virus (Figure 3).

Moreover, in order to study what diseases are developed in animals infected by viruses, it is necessary to experimentally infect chickens and pigs with viruses and observe their symptoms. Through the ultimate sacrifice of these experimental animals, we are developing technologies to protect animals and humans from viruses.

Research is carried out safely in a special containment facility (biosafety level 3) so that the viruses will not diffuse into the environment (Figure 4).


What is your goal?

We aim to further advance our research to protect the health of animals and humans. For example, the following is an explanation of avian flu.

Highly pathogenic avian flu originates from type H5 and H7 influenza viruses, as opposed to human influenza, which originates from type H1 and H3 influenza viruses. We want to develop technologies that enable avian influenza viruses to be easily distinguished from human influenza viruses (Figure 5) and provide these technologies to veterinarians and physicians.

In addition, while we have already developed a vaccine to prevent the spread of highly pathogenic avian flu in the event it occurs in Japan (Figure 6), in the future, we want to apply this technology to control novel human influenzas as well as pig and horse flu.